After a lot of walking at the Gold Coast Art Festival, my family and I headed for our reservations at David Burke’s Prime House in the James Hotel for lunch. After the experience the night before at Spiaggia I don’t think anyone was too keen on another overpriced meal served with pretense – thankfully Burke’s offers neither at lunch and actually has a very nice looking “No Bull Feast” 3 course menu with appetizer, main, and dessert included. Having contacted the restaurant ahead of time and made reservations I additionally asked if there was any way dinner items could be prepared for lunch at an additional charge and was told that would be perfectly acceptable provided the ingredients were in stock. To avoid belaboring service issues, every aspect of our experience from my first e-mail to the moment we left was flawless service – they didn’t even bat an eye when my sister stated she was cold at our window table to move us to an another warmer area.
Seated promptly with water, iced tea, and hot tea (sister) filled by our server we were next brought our menus and told what was available on the dinner menu. Excited, we each opted for the No Bull Feast plus I added on something that couldn’t be missed. Orders taken our server ambled away and we sat and chatted in the largely uncrowded but beautiful restaurant – while clearly in the lobby of a hotel, the space was very quiet and I actually enjoyed watching the street, the movement in the kitchen, and the other tables receive foods from the rolling carts. If I did have to utter one complaint it would be the bizarre lyrical techno playing overhead – not my cup o’ tea and didn’t really need to be on quite so loud.
Arriving prior to our appetizers we first received one of Burke’s famous popovers served in a copper sauce pan. Clearly not made in the pan but a very nice effect, the popover was crispy on the outside and largely hollow on the inside aside from the strong vapors of butter and yeast. An excellent dinner roll, my aunt complained there wasn’t enough substance and that she wished she’d have gotten more than one – of course this was stated before she failed to finish her meal – I think Primehouse is aware of their portion sizes and I’m glad (for once) I didn’t fill up on bread.
Having a limited (but great looking) number of selections for lunch we ended up getting only 2 different appetizers. For my mother and sister, they each chose the Lobster Bisque with Green Apple essence and Lobster Spring Roll. Not overwhelmed with cream and butter like most steakhouse bisques I was very impressed by the quality of Burke’s bisque and compare it favorably to the broth-like version we’d had at Crop in May. Rich and complex with quite a bit of lobster, the brine of the dish was well tempered by the underlying tones of apple and garlic.
For my aunt and I we each opted to go with the Pretzel Crusted Crab Cake with Poppyseed Honey, Citrus, Mango-Mayo – in a word, excellent! Featuring pretzel’s lengthwise with a well proportioned crabcake baked and pan-flash finished inside plus notable aromatics provided by spices, the cake itself was both unique and tasty. What set the dish apart, however, was actually the light accents provided by the mild honey and the creaminess added by the sweet yet savory mango-mayo. Certainly a novel take on the steakhouse favorite and it worked well.
My addition from the dinner menu was served along with my crabcake and was worth every cent of the $18 price (note, the app/main/dessert feast was only $20.09) Entitled Foie Gras Terrine with Green City Market Rhubarb, Strawberry Pinot Noir Jam, and Toasted Brioche this item was every bit as good as it sounds – better than the foie at Alinea and probably #3 on my all-time list behind The French Laundry and Alto. While I fully admit to preferring terrine over roast, this version was particularly decadent with the luxurious and creamy liver served beneath a layer of rendered fat/Pinot/Strawberry and topped with chopped, poached, and sweetened rhubarb. Spreading thin in order to savor I requested extra bread which was delivered, grilled, within 2 minutes.
Happy already a short while passed while we waited for our mains – during this time a crowd of four persons in tattered T-shirts and ripped jeans came in and were seated towards the front of the restaurant. Given their dress I was surprised they were allowed to be seated – and the volume/tone/language of their conversation certainly didn’t befit a high end steakhouse…clearly the low price point of the lunch menu brings all sorts. Largely unaffected our mains arrived via yet another push cart and everything looked great. Starting with my aunt’s dish, she selected the Lobster Pasta with pea tendrils, morels, and roasted shallot butter. While the pasta itself was largely boring and a little soft for my liking, the shallot butter was superb, the lobster fresh, and the morels…amazing both in quality, quantity, and texture. Quite frankly, in Columbus the Morels and lobster on this plate alone would’ve cost $20.09 at Whole Foods.
The second main, my sisters, was Tempura Shrimp Salad with Cucumber, Carrot, Bell Pepper, Ginger Soy. Vibrant, enormous, flavorful, and featuring very fresh vegetables with an incredible texture I was very impressed by this dish despite not being a “Salad for a main” kinda guy. The Tempura Shrimp were ginger glazed prior to frying which added an unexpected and pleasant degree of complexity.
The third main, ordered by my mother and myself was Pan Roasted Chicken with basil whipped potatoes, asparagus, roasted garlic jus and when it arrived all I could think was “chicken – are you sure it wasn’t a turkey?” Quite honestly, the dish was enormous – and I can eat! A whole half an Amish chicken, easily 3/4 lbs of potatoes, a half bundle of perfectly poached garlic accented asparagus, and an ample helping of chicken/garlic pan jus. Well cooked, great tasting, probably the best chicken I’ve had in half a year or more – superb.
Already quite full we were informed that dessert would be up next – it was around 2pm and I had dinner at Alinea in 6.5 hours, hopefully desserts would be small…nope! Arriving first, my aunt and mother’s option was the Gianduja Creme Brulee with Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Brulee, Coffee Ice Cream, Caramel Hazelnuts. Though not a big fan of crème brulee in general, having experienced Gianduja multiple times in the past I expected this to be good – and excellent it was. The “worst” of the desserts, I still preferred this to anything we’d had at Spiaggia the night before and found the flavor much akin to nutella with a hearty coffee ice cream that featured great top notes of hazelnut.
Second, my dessert – entitled “A Slice of Prime” and described as layers of chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, and fudge s'mores ice cream I found the presentation with a dense chocolate bulls-head lollypop quite attractive. Thick, rich, almost too decadent for one the cake was actually great on its own but enhanced to a new level by the ice cream which helped to not only cut the sweetness but also to add a degree of nuance to the dish with its notably “marshmellowy” tones.
The final dessert, once again what I’d have ordered if I was solo, was “The King” - Banana Cake, Chocolate Cream, Peanut Butter Ice Cream, Peanut Bacon Brittle, Tempura Banana. Just read over those ingredients and tell me how this could possibly be anything less than awesome? Sweet/savory, hot/cold, chocolate/peanut butter, soft/crunchy…with bacon. Dense cake, hefty cream, smooth ice cream, a perfectly prepared tempura banana, and the crunch of whole peanuts with bacon – a designer dessert in a non-designer setting – superb.
When it was all said and done our total bill for 4 was less than my personal bill at either Spiaggia or North Pond and I enjoyed the meal more. While the food may not be as “high end” and the view not as spectacular you simply can’t say enough about great food in a comfortable setting with fantastic and accommodating service. As a non-beef eater I must say my last two steakhouse experiences (CUT in LA and Burke’s) have been wonderful – and at $20.09 for three great courses I’d strongly recommend Burke’s to anyone for lunch – I’ll be back for Dim Sum sometime soon.